There are not many things that are quite as much fun as putting on your favorite song and rocking out to some serious riffs on your air guitar. For a moment in time you are the star of the show. The Rock Band game has capitalized on this idea and if you’ve ever played, you know exactly what I’m talking about. I dance around and act like I’m really on stage. Sure it’s probably embarrassing, but it’s heaps of fun.

Courtesy Virgin Media

I began thinking of how many leaders (including me) have done, or are doing, the equivalent of air guitar in how they lead. We go through all the same motions we believe the person we admire goes through, but there’s little substance to it. We haven’t put in the hours and hours of practice of learning a skill. We haven’t gone through the painful refinement process someone else has gone through.

We have all worked with or for someone like this. It was embarrassing and frustrating to deal with all the baggage that goes along with this type of leadership. It’s not an all or nothing affair, though. I found there are areas in my leadership where I believe someone else is better at me in a particular area and so I pull out my leadership air guitar and begin to mimic them. It’s like being authentic and embracing the learning process isn’t good enough. I want to be there…wherever there is. Looking back at doing this, it’s on par with looking at my pictures from the 80s and asking, “What in the world was I thinking?!”

We all have pockets in our professional and personal lives where someone will be a few squares ahead of us. Instead of feeling threatened or diminished by them, we can be grateful that there is still room for us to grow as leaders. We can learn from them and hopefully gain wisdom from their mistakes instead of repeating those mistakes ourselves. When we pull out our leadership air guitar, we completely hijack the learning process.

What are some things you have learned from keeping your leadership air guitar in its case and being authentic to the learning process?

  • Deb Costello

    This is a great analogy! I love the idea of mimicry here! Part of the learning process is putting on the hats of those we admire, walking the walk for a bit to see if it fits, and if so, learning the skills to mean it… it’s a process, and the cool part is we can always get better!

  • You bet Deb. The important bit is to take off their hat and begin to develop your own hat. Many of us don’t do that. We just keep doing the hollow mimicry gambit. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  • Right on, brother. Learn the riffs and play them well.

    Now, somebody buy me a drum set.

  • Too funny Kevin. I’d like to see you keep up with Neil Peart (aka The Professor) on those drums! Thanks for contributing to the conversation my friend.

  • [email protected]

    What a powerful analogy William ! For me, what’s resonating is giving ourselves permission to be true, to be vulnerable. Leaders are appreciated for being authentic. I try never to ‘give myself permission’ to do or be… I’m just who I am, not better than anyone else, but know what value I bring to the table at all times: I listen and express my inner voice and connect and listen to others. I take pride in being passionate and learn from others. Thx for sharing your thoughts ! Always appreciated.

  • Absolutely Johann. Leaders must be comfortable in their own skin…warts and all. We’re all developing personally and professionally and we can learn from each other. Thanks for sharing your insight!